Ropen Expedition by Woetzel and Guessman

A few weeks after my expedition on Umboi Island, David Woetzel and Garth Guessman arrived in Papua New Guinea. It’s now been ten years since our two expeditions in 2004, but what we learned from interviewing natives—that still needs more publicity, for few Americans have heard about our discoveries in cryptozoology. Consider the following quotations from Searching for Ropens and Finding God (fourth edition):

Page 93

Guessman and Woetzel left California October 17, arriving in the city of Lae on October 19, Papua New Guinea time, where they met missionary Jim Blume and his wife . . . According to Blume, in a wide area of Papua New Guinea, many nationals give similar descriptions: bat-like wings, long body, tail with a flange, pelican-like bill, and a “comb” (more rounded than horn-like) on the back of the head.

Garth Guessman and David WoetzelGuessman and Woetzel arrive at an airport in Papua New Guinea

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Page 94

Interviews by Blume suggest that the bioluminescence may relate to secretions that seem to drip from the creatures as they fly, like “sparklers” falling to the ground. The secretions are said to burn human skin, even with serious burns. . . .

Rather than take a ship, as I had, those three [David Woetzel, Garth Guessman, and Jacob Kepas] flew to Umboi Island in a small plane, searching the landscape as they passed over the center of the island. Because the pilot had no interest in zigzagging, they flew directly to the northern coast which they followed to the air strip at Lab Lab.

Here the three ropen investigators met Peter Ake, magistrate of Mararamu Village, and the four men took a banana boat along the northeast coast. Kepas interprets between English and Tok Pisin, but Peter also interprets between English and the local dialect of Kovai.

Page 95

Stopping to refuel at Kampalap, they learned that villagers occasionally see the ropen as it leaves a cave, most recently three weeks earlier. . . . The creature flies to a promontory north of the village, landing and waiting on a tree top before flying out to the reef. . . . Guessman, Kepas, Peter, and Woetzel continued on the banana boat northwest, leaving it near Aupwel, where they were greeted by many local villagers. An older man, Patrik Sual . . . told the investigators that he sees the ropen once a month, only from a distance; it flies from mountain to mountain.

Page 97

The three men not only came close to ropen habitat, they became close to the villagers, becoming officially adopted into three families. They were honored as they received new names: Guessman was named Bok Sigil (Bok is a brown eagle, Sigil means “cliffs”); Woetzel, Ropen Lailai (Lailai is the tallest peak of Mount Sual); and Kepas, Ropen Barik (one of the major mountains of Umboi).

Woetzel and Guessman met many natives on Umboi IslandDavid Woetzel (left) and Garth Guessman (bottom)

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Crater lake "Bono" at Mount Sual, Umboi Island

Bono, the crater lake of Mount Sual on Umboi Island

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Page 97, continued

On October 23rd, Guessman, Woetzel, and Kepas hiked up Mount Sual with five men and four boys; they descended into the caldera, setting up camp fifty meters from the shore of Lake Bono. Their lookout post, near the bushes six meters from the shore, gave a panoramic view of the lake, but after a grueling climb the first night of observations tested their resolve to stay awake. . . . On the third night, rain stopped observations. Previous ropen sightings suggest these peaks, including Mount Sual, harbor one of the creature’s resting spots. Unfortunately these three nights at Lake Bono gave little rest for man, none for the ropen. Disappointed, the men returned to Arot on the fourth day, sliding down the muddy trail in the rain. Two days later their luck would improve.

Thank you to Garth Guessman and to David Woetzel for allowing us to learn of their expedition through their photos and the records of their interviews, only a small portion of which can be included in this post.

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The two Expeditions of 2004

The last leg of our journey took us through the villages of the western coast and down to the government station of Bunsel. While at Bunsel we met some folks that explained to us their traditional belief that the Ropen feasts on a particular kind of large mollusk. We had heard reports from other villages about these clams (some of which are reported to litter mount Bel). But the villagers were able to show us some of the shells, as big as 5 feet (1.5 m) in diameter!

Bioluminescent Ropen

Let’s compare the words of four witnesses: three natives on Umboi Island and one British biologist on the mainland of New Guinea. Each describes flying lights: on two sides of Umboi and on the mainland to the west of Umboi.

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“Live Pterosaurs in America” on Facebook

Abram, of Opai Village (Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea) saw the ropenA page for the nonfiction book “Live Pterosaurs in America” (you might need to log-in to Facebook to see this) is featured on Facebook. New features on this page include videos of eyewitness interviews: “Grave Robbery by the Ropen-Pterosaur,” “Three Eyewitnesses of the Ropen,” and “Abram of Opai . . . saw the ropen.” Although interviews with eyewitnesses who live in Papua New Guinea have no direct relationship with sightings in the United States of America, the indirect relationship is significant: Natives of remote tropical islands have no problem telling us about their encounters with creatures their culture tells them exist; but American eyewitnesses of apparent living pterosaurs face a problem of credibility from the start, having seen creatures that their culture tells them should not exist.

Also on Facebook is the new group “Living Pterosaurs.” We hope that we will soon be privileged to have eyewitnesses participate and answer questions about the extraordinary creatures they have seen.

See also “2004 Interview of Gideon Koro

Are the ropens always nocturnal?

In August of 2009, a university student in Papua New Guinea sent me an email. Here is part of it: (minor English corrections for grammar and spelling, etc)

Hi. My name is Rex Yapi. I’m a second-year business-accounting student at the PNG University of Technology in Lae City. [The city of Lae is on the mainland, many miles from Umboi Island (called by these people “Siasi”), where this sighting took place and where I, Jonathan Whitcomb, explored and interviewed eyewitnesses in 2004.]

I just want to [tell] you of the current sighting of the dragon named “Ropen.” I was on an out-board motor as early as 9 a.m., when we saw a giant creature floating along the coast line near Bunsil Bay.  Its body was submerged under the sea but its tail was emerged. I saw that its tail is about 6-7 meters long with a sharp diamond-shape. It was an awesome scenerio and I started pointing to the others towards the object. It was floating 10 meters away from the boat and its color was brownish-dark without any form of hair.

Being in fear, we stopped the boat to let it pass by. Later I was told that Bunsil Bay Coast Line up the Goosh River is the normal route which Ropen takes when it’s coming into Umboi Island from the mainland of PNG. . . .

It seems that the ropen does appear in daylight, on rare occasions. Thus we have eyewitness accounts with detailed descriptions, including detailed estimates of tail length. This consistent description of a long tail refutes the criticism that the ropen is just an unclassified species of bat, rather than a pterosaur. Critics consistently ignore reports of long tails.

Around 2004, the paleontologist Glen Kuban wrote a web page (revised, apparently, through 2007) criticizing the belief that any pterosaurs are still living. He says, “A number of large birds, as well as large fruit bats, can present pterosaur-like shapes, especially if seen from a distance or in silhouette.” But his web page says nothing about any long tail reported on an apparent modern pterosaur. A sketch of a long-tailed pterosaur he displays, as well as two photos of the giant Flying Fox fruit bat (those bats appear to have no tail at all). Why speculate about sightings in the dark? Some daylight sightings of ropens reveal a long tail.

The only instance of the word “tail” on Kuban’s web page is on a caption of a photo of a pterosaur fossil. Why ignore the testimony of the American World War II veteran Duane Hodgkinson? He made it clear that the creature that flew up from the clearing, in plain view in daylight, had a tail “at least ten or fifteen feet” long.

Why did Mr. Kuban write a long web page, with dozens of paragraphs, to disuade people from believing in reports of living pterosaurs? He seems to be most concerned about protecting the standard models of geology. He did not, apparently, conduct any objective research to evaluate and report the most relevant details from the eyewitness reports that so strongly suggest that Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs live in Papua New Guinea.

See also: The nonfiction pterosaur book about sightings in the United States

See also: Problems with a bat interpretation

James Blume, missionary in Papua New Guinea

James Blume, missionary in Papua New GuineaJim Blume, a plane pilot, has been a missionary in Papua New Guinea for decades. He has been more than that, however, to researchers and living-pterosaur cryptozoologists: He has been a pioneer with interviewing natives who know about the giant flying creature of the night, known by names like “ropen,” “duwas,” “seklo-bali,” and “indava.”

Blume helped interpret for several Americans during at least two expedition late in the twentieth century. At least twice, this missionary-pilot has flown explorers into remote areas where native eyewitnesses were interviewed, including the 2006 expedition (with Paul Nation and Jacob Kepas) deep in the interior of the mainland of Papua New Guinea.

He was one of two interpreters who interviewed Gideon Koro (Umboi Island, 1994) soon after the boy’s terrifying encounter with a large ropen. In 2003, I reviewed the video footage of that interview and was impressed with the credibility of the young eyewitness. That interview helped set my determination to go to Umboi Island myself, which I did in 2004; I interviewed Gideon Koro (and two of his friends who were with him during the sighting) and obtained more information about the ropen.

James Blume was an early pioneer in the ropen investigations, and his influence on living-pterosaur research has been great. Thank you, Jim, for your wonderful help with pterosaur expeditions.

Nocturnal Pterosaurs

When Susan Wooten’s sighting in South Carolina began receiving more attention, one critic proclaimed that a large modern pterosaur would be impossible so near the Atlantic coast of the United States, for thousands of beach-goers would have seen it. That critics seems to assume that any large pterosaur living in South Carolina would have shown up at the beach in daylight, causing news headlines; since he did not see any relevant news report, then no large pterosaur could live there.

How rarely critics consider the whole picture! The overall reports of living pterosaurs around the world suggest these creatures are mostly nocturnal. It’s not just the rarity of daylight sightings. Specific flight behavior at night suggests they are nocturnal.

Then why should they ever appear in daylight? Consider two dramatic daylight sightings in Papua New Guinea, where the nocturnal ropen is believed to fly with a bioluminescent glow at night. Both cases involve a large or giant “prehistoric” creature, with no sign of feathers, flying at low altitude. Both may have been Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs, awakened from sleep in daylight and frightened into flying away from potential danger.

In 1971, in daylight, on Bougainville Island, Brian Hennessy saw something he will never forget. In his own words, “. . . our truck had stopped on our downward journey from the top of the range to the coast way below. . . . I can’t remember why our vehicle had stopped. Maybe we had to wait for another vehicle to pass us. . . . I saw a very unusual creature. Firstly, it was very big . . . a longish narrow tail . . .”

I asked Mr. Hennessy, “Was anything coming out the back of the head . . . a crest,  appendage, horn, or comb?” He replied, “It was like a horn.”

The two vehicles may have startled the creature from sleep. Many years earlier and many miles to the west was another sighting.

In 1944, in daylight, west of Finnschafen (mainland New Guinea), Duane Hodgkinson saw something he will never forget. At the edge of a clearing, he and his army buddy were gazing at some large ants, bigger than any ants in Ohio. Some animal, at first unseen, came running through the grass. Something then flew up from the far side of the clearing, apparently startled by the running animal. Hodgkinson soon realized that it was not a bird, for it was too big and it had a long appendage coming out the back of the head. He then concluded that it was a “pterodactyl.” At about the time it flew away, a wild pig came running past.

I am convinced that both Hennessy and Hodgkinson saw Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs (on Umboi Island, the animal is called “ropen“). The 1944 sighting seems to have involved a large ropen awakened from sleep by a wild pig.

But the ropen is rarely seen in daylight, by Umboi natives. It is said to catch its food at night, on reefs that surround the island. Its described behavior resembles that of the kor, which islanders to the north say catches fish at night. Deep in the mainland of Papua New Guinea a large flying creature is said to fly at night: the indava. These three native names may refer to the same type of animal, for all accounts include a glow that flies at night. Of course intrinsic bioluminescence would not make it impossible for a creature to come out in daylight; it only makes a daylight appearance rare.

See also Pterosaur in South Carolina and also Hennessy Pterosaur

Consider reading more about nocturnal pterosaurs: Cliff Paiva report